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Blenko Glass seeks investors

Post Time:Feb 23,2009Classify:Company NewsView:340

The owners of Blenko Glass Co. in Milton have about a week to decide the fate of the town's historic plant.

The company has only several days' worth of inventory left to sell. Once it is sold out, the owners will have to make a decision - file for bankruptcy or agree to sell a stake in the company.

"Without investors, it will remain shut down," said Katie Trippe, assistant vice president of the 116-year-old company.

Blenko shut down production Jan. 30, laying off 26 employees. Most of them made colorful handmade glass.

The company's bank accounts were seized after its former gas supplier, Big Two Mile, went to court Jan. 15 to seek about $500,000 that Blenko owed it.

That essentially emptied the company's accounts, Trippe said.

Big Two Mile's president is Charleston businessman Ed Maier. He says he tried to work with Blenko officials to get repaid.

The Blenko family has been speaking with several possible investors, Trippe said. All have ties to West Virginia.

The family has asked the state for help, but was told the state could not intervene without an investor, she said.

"We're basically looking for people who want to buy a portion of the company," she said.

How much money the family needs to put back into the company Trippe said she did not know.

"That's a question for our lawyers," she said.

The plant's five operating furnaces were shut down so suddenly in late January that several still have glass in them, said Mickey McDonald, a Blenko employee.

If production were to start again, it would take about three weeks to fire the furnaces back up and several would have to be replaced, he said.

"This all came really suddenly for all of us," McDonald said. "There's usually a big roar in here from the furnaces, but now it has a ghostly appearance."

Even with the nation's economic downturn, the company had been doing "incredibly well this year," Trippe said. "We would have continued and probably thrived this year, if it had not been for this problem."

Prior to its shutdown, the company received several large orders from New York City and Boston to make light covers for their subway systems. But those orders were put on hold when production stopped, she said.

"It's been incredibly frustrating," Trippe said.

Production employees have been without a job for about a month, and those who remain are packing and shipping out final orders, McDonald said.

Blenko's visitors center and warehouse will remain open until all inventory is sold, Trippe said.

Blenko Glass has been in Milton since 1921 and has been in business since 1893.

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Source: The Charleston GazetteAuthor: shangyi

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